Impressions of the 2013 General Assembly Session

The first half of the 2013-14 session of the General Assembly is history and our local delegation did a good job, in my view, of protecting the interests of the local folks, as well as doing the essential business of the state at large.

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We fixed the electoral system so that another debacle, such as we experienced last election, will not happen again. Thanks to the energetic efforts of USCB Chancellor Jane Upshaw, Vice Chancellor Lynn McGee, and USC President Harris Pastides, we were able to secure funding for USCB, on a per student basis, at par with most other students in the USC system. In addition, the Waddell Mariculture Center had its operational funding appropriated as a line-item in the regular budget. The essential renovation dollars will be secured next year as the renovation is in progress, with funds currently in hand, with Al Stokes and his crew being made whole, fiscally speaking, in next year”s budget. It is a priority of your entire House delegation.

I learned much as a freshman legislator. The statehouse is a larger political pond than Beaufort County Council. That said, ten years as Chairman of county council was a huge benefit in the practical experience of creating law that is effective, but not inundated with unintended consequences. Also, as a practicing attorney, I routinely read and understand every word of applicable law, or Just one would be enough to get the job done, but when you have them both working in conjunction with each other, it’s almost too much of a good thing. ruling or judicial commentary on that law, so as to effectively and efficiently represent my clients. Not surprisingly, that habit is of great value in the creation of good law. Both attributes helped to make my contribution to the process more valuable, and more respected, than might be expected from a newcomer.

The one area of my legislative experience that required some adjustment had to do with my family time. Those who know me are aware that I am committed to community service, I am also committed to capably serve my legal clients and practice, but my chief responsibility is to my family. My role as husband and father trumps all else. Thus, when my legislative responsibilities came into conflict with my family commitments, we did what anyone would do, we made adjustments. Instead of a full week of dedicated family vacation time, we combined long weekends of professional obligations, such as Rose”s weekend at Kiawah for South Carolina Bankers Association seminars, with me taking the kids for countless hours on the bike paths or the water slides of Kiawah. Although it isn”t easy, it is important to balance the pressure of legislating or litigating and to focus on the needs of these young folks we have brought into this world. I want to know that when their heads hit the pillow, that we have left nothing undone that day.

Summer vacation is drawing to a close. School supplies stock the shelves and our little ones are amazed that school is just around the corner. As they get older, the life lessons we share will change, as will their questions and needs. Right now, the May River and Myrtle Island are the center of the universe for them. But soon, the larger world will begin to encroach, and adjustments will have to be made once again. Rose and I believe the circle of blessings begins at home, expanding by degree, one small gift at a time.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the State House. . Just because session is out doesn”t mean the work is over. I will be spending the next six months meeting with various civic groups and local citizens to talk about our area”s needs and working on the important legislation that awaits in January. Please don”t hesitate to call or email me with any constituent question or concern. If you would like to contact me or if you would like for me to speak to one of your local groups or clubs, please feel free to contact me at my office, 706-6111, or email me at

District 120 April Update

We were on furlough from the statehouse last week, so will comment on some local happenings. Despite the blustery weather, the Heritage was a huge success. The challenges put up by Mother Nature notwithstanding, the golf was exciting, the hospitality tents were warm and full, and tens of thousands of visitors found their way to our gorgeous part of the Lowcountry. The Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce leveraged the event masterfully. Bill Miles and his crew managed to put together a beautiful ad featuring not only our delightful spring scenery, but including a voiceover by Sea Pines co-founder Charles Fraser. Millions of viewers worldwide were reminded that coastal South Carolina has everything to make a perfect vacation, vacation home or even a second or third career business for those with an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit. In that spirit, it was good to see Governor Haley huddling with business leaders looking to relocate to South Carolina. I had a chance to chat with old friend Greg Robinson, an islander who is currently the Director of Economic Development for Orangeburg County. Also good to see my friend, Senator Tim Scott, making his way around the course. The Heritage was successful in no small part because of the thousands of volunteers who put in their time and energy to make it all come together. I also want to personally thank the Bluffton High School football team for spending their

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entire weekend on trash duty. They really made a difference.

Recently, we were blessed with the opportunity to host the Lowcountry Legal Volunteers 3rd Annual Wild Women”s Tea Party at our home on Myrtle Island. This local group does great work in the community raising money to advocate for local women and children who are unable to afford non-criminal legal representation. As usual, my bride had the house and yard ready for the 150 ladies, the alleged wild women, who enjoyed refreshments, a great fashion show put on by Gigi”s of Bluffton, as well as the entertaining Master of Ceremonies, Pink Magazine publisher Elizabeth Millen. Your representative served as Master of the Golf Cart, keeping the coolers full of ice, hauling trash, and transporting the wild women to and from their vehicles parked along Myrtle Island Road. Kudos Dersom du bare er ute etter a ha det goy kan spilleautomater pa nett v?re et godt valg. to my wife Rose, along with Karen Wessel, Clair Craver, and their entire leadership team for a fun, productive event for a great cause. That evening was spent at neighbor Peggy Parker”s Myrtle Island home celebrating the decades of service to the Bluffton community by the Jerry and Mary Reeves. These lovely folks have not only been the creator and benefactor of the Children”s Center, they have been the mainstay of the local historic preservation effort and its focal point, the Heyward House. In addition to their many charitable works, they have provided jobs for the bulk of Bluffton residents for forty years or more. Peggy was the consummate hostess, even providing an incredible May River sunset. The stars of the evening were, of course, the honorees, Jerry and Mary Reeves.

Bluffton has been blessed, over the years, by many capable and talented women, whose efforts have underpinned the civic, social and political order of our community. None was more generous or gracious in her offerings than our recently departed friend, Nancy Roe. From the days of their legendary Kentucky Derby parties at Windy Knoll Farm, to her recent meet and greet in support of my statehouse run, Nancy and husband Bill were prime movers and contributors to the society and politics of the region. She was the embodiment of the genuine southern hostess. We will miss her.

District 120 Update

A little over a month into the new session and I am beginning to find a comfortable routine in traveling back and forth between Bluffton and Columbia. We have pretty much worked the bugs out of my communication with work and the home front. By necessity, I am becoming more adept with video to maintain “face time” with Rose and the little guys. As a citizen/legislature, the members of the General Assembly all make certain arrangements to both take care of the people’s business as well as their own. Nonetheless, I sorely miss being at my children’s sporting events and helping Rose make sure homework and reading assignments are complete.
We attended the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Ball last Saturday. It was great to see all our business leaders and so many representatives of local government enjoying good fellowship and recognizing the accomplishments of our leading organizations and individuals. Our congratulations go to Chancellor Jane Upshaw and the USCB

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family for their award. Also, kudos to Larry and Tina Toomer and the Bluffton Oyster Company, the Bluffton Regional Business Council Member of the Year. Bill Miles and his excellent staff put on another stellar event.
Judiciary Committee and subcommittees are now well stocked with substantive legislation for debate. We continue to work through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legislation, which is of particular interest to me. I spent the last ten years making Beaufort County government the most open and transparent in the state. While the effort was sometimes a struggle, the benefits in terms of day-to-day credibility were more than worth the exertion. I believe many of my legislative colleagues do not quite understand the corrosive effect of the widespread cynicism and mistrust of government that is rampant in our state, and indeed, our country.
Citizens must have good and easy access to government, including timely and inexpensive release of appropriate records and documents. In subcommittee, we heard testimony from Denise Davidson and Councilwoman Barbara Clark from Jasper County detailing their personal challenges obtaining public records.
In truth, the current legislation falls short of what I believe is required to make state government as open and transparent as it should be. To that end, I plan to introduce legislation that will limit the legislative exception to FOIA.
We had good visits this week from members of Jasper County Council and staff. Our conversations were with Council Chairman Henry Etheridge, Council Member Barbara Clark, along with Administrator Andy Fulghum and Finance Director Ronnie Malphrus. In addition, we met again with folks from USCB, and supported our university’s parity funding request before Ways and Means Committee.
Our university is a jewel in our region, and our students are no less deserving of state funding than those at the other public colleges in the state. This parity issue is a top delegation agenda item for this year. We are focused and united on this matter and I am confident we can get it done.